The Mahalo ʻĀina Discovery Forest Projects benefit three Discovery Forest sites: Keauhou Bird Conservation Center Discovery Forest (KBCC DF); Pana‘ewa Zoo Discovery Forest (PZDF), and Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest (HZCDF). The Discovery Forests include outreach and education, invasive weed control and planting native and Polynesian-introduced seedlings.
At the Discovery Forest sites we raise awareness of stakeholders and support educational opportunities focused on responsible use of natural resources. Online resources and lesson plans reached a wider audience. These sites serve as outdoor classrooms where students learn about the importance of protecting Hawaii’s forests. The cultural, natural and historical attributes of Hawaii’s flora and fauna are shared as volunteers gain experience as leaders, team members, and stewards of the land.
The Discovery Forests demonstrate natural resource preservation, restoration, and sustainable management and provide natural resource education opportunities onsite and online. By planting trees, we address climate change by absorbing CO2, purify the air, reduce soil erosion, and provide a food source and natural habitat for wildlife.
At the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC) Discovery Forest, we engaged community volunteers in:
- Restoring an endemic forest canopy with Acacia koa and ‘Ōhi‘a as the pioneer species;
- Outplanting an endemic forest understory with fruiting trees and shrubs;
- Improving habitat quality for endemic wild birds; and
- Providing fruits, browse, and perching limbs for the native birds.
We provide hands-on education for students and community volunteers, with an emphasis on connections between rare endemic birds and their habitat. Planting activities are incorporated into the KBCC’s native bird outreach program. A special workday was held in which 16 volunteers including Hawaii Forest Industry Association (HFIA) members and partners as well as community volunteers outplanted seedlings at the Discovery Forest and visited the bird center. KBCC Conservation Programs Manager gave a presentation about the birds being bred at the facility.
At the Pana‘ewa Zoo Discovery Forest (PZDF) we engage volunteers in weeding and outplanting seedlings. HFI’s Hawai’i Forest Flora & Fauna Resource Cards are handed out to volunteers. In addition to plant ID signs, the Discovery Forest includes Native and Agroforest interpretive signs and an interpretive kiosk. On July 22, 2023 HFI participated in the Friends of Pan‘aewa Zoo’s Tiger Fun Day, in which 16 community volunteers visited the site; activities included three Discovery Forest educational tours, weeding and outplanting 15 native seedlings.
At the Honolulu Zoo Children’s Discovery Forest (HZCDF) we engage volunteers in monthly forest stewardship activities, which included educational presentations, planting seedlings, weeding, and harvesting sugar cane, ulu, and bananas for animals at the Zoo. HFI’s Hawai’i Forest Flora & Fauna Resource Cards are handed out to volunteers. On November 18, 2023, we hosted a special Ohia Love Event attended by 30 volunteers including Pack 33 Cub Scouts, Aloha United Way Society of Young Leaders, Lyon Arboretum staff, KUPU interns, and community volunteers. Activities included outplanting three ʻōhiʻa lehua plants donated by Lyon Arboretum and weeding. HFI President Travis Idol, PhD. led the event and gave an educational presentation about the Discovery Forest.
We demonstrate important Hawaiian plant ecosystems to a broad range of zoo visitors and volunteers. Generally, the Pana‘ewa Zoo Rainforest & Gardens has 170,000 visitors/year, Honolulu Zoo has 600,000 visitors/year, and KBCC hosts 1,500 students/year with an annual open house for residents and visitors.